Basingstoke town centre appears to have a roof over pretty much all of it. First, there was the Malls; this concrete complex was firmly in place when I first encountered Basingstoke in the 1990s. Then there was Festival Place. Such a bright, cheerful name! And inside, bright, cheerful shops. Everything you could want, on any high street, except for the outdoors.
I once got quite thoroughly lost in festival place. I couldn’t even find the reassuringly familiar greyness of the Malls. I was looking for the exit. It seemed to have vanished…
That was a few years ago. I still don’t trust that place, but have come to a sort of compromise with it. And I’ve carefully noted the various ways out.
On Monday, I steeled myself for the necessity of back to school shopping. And I took my sketchbook…
And you know what? It wasn’t as bad as all that. I’ll never be a keen shopper, and I’ll always prefer to be out of the shopping centre and in the older streets like those found in Basingstoke’s “top of town”, but we bought what was required and we didn’t get lost.
There’s more. Having set out to do this Project, I’m looking at Basingstoke with fresh eyes. The people thronging the shops are still people. The glossy veneer of the shopping centre and the frantic activity of consumers seeking bargains and popularity amongst their peers may be one of the less admirable signifiers of modern culture, but that’s not all there is. Not all there is to modern culture, and not all there is to Basingstoke.
I’m looking forward to discovering more.